MILWAUKEE -- Early in the Brewers' 8-7 win on Sunday, after the Mets had rattled off five singles against Jhoulys Chacin in a four-run second inning that dropped Milwaukee into an early deficit for the second straight day, big first baseman Jesus Aguilar found Chacin in the dugout for a
MILWAUKEE -- Early in the Brewers' 8-7 win on Sunday, after the Mets had rattled off five singles against Jhoulys Chacin in a four-run second inning that dropped Milwaukee into an early deficit for the second straight day, big first baseman Jesus Aguilar found Chacin in the dugout for a few prophetic words.
"He told me, 'Don't worry. Keep it there, and we're going to come back,'" said Chacin.
"That's true," said Aguilar. "I said, 'Hold it right there. Don't worry about the hitting because we're hitting good, and we're going to be back. We're going to win this game.' That's what I said to him."
Aguilar was right.
It took not one, but two Brewers comebacks, but Aguilar was right.
Propelling the Brewers past the mathematical one-third mark of the regular season to the traditional Memorial Day benchmark with the best record in the National League, Aguilar hit a tying, three-run home run in the bottom of the third inning and drove in Milwaukee's first four runs to fuel one of those comebacks, then took a key two-out walk to aid another in a four-run seventh inning that pushed the team over the top.
Travis Shaw, Domingo Santana and Jonathan Villar delivered the run-scoring hits in that decisive rally to send the Brewers to their fifth consecutive series victory. They are 13-4 in that stretch and 34-20 overall, best in the NL.
Aguilar, who began the season as Milwaukee's third-string first baseman but has seized the position in the wake of injuries to Eric Thames and Ryan Braun, has had an offensive resurgence in that stretch. During the team's 17-game hot streak, Aguilar is batting .302 with seven of his nine home runs and 19 of his 30 RBIs on the season.
Just like the Brewers' three-run first inning Saturday after the Mets had jumped to an early 3-0 lead on Chase Anderson, Aguilar's answer in the third inning on Sunday was like hitting the reset button.
"It was a whole new ballgame," manager Craig Counsell said.
Chacin limited the Mets to one more run while pitching into the seventh, when Asdrubal Cabrera greeted Boone Logan with a home run that gave the Mets a 6-4 lead.
Once again, the Brewers mounted a comeback. With starter Zack Wheeler out of the game in the bottom of the seventh and relievers Robert Gsellman, Jerry Blevins and Paul Sewald in his stead, Aguilar kept a threat alive with a two-out walk before Shaw, Santana and Villar delivered successive run-scoring hits. Shaw's single made it a one-run game, Santana's two-run double gave the Brewers the lead, and Villar's double provided insurance.
Relievers Jeremy Jeffress and Corey Knebel closed it out, with Jeffress matching a franchise record with his 23rd consecutive appearance without being charged with a run, and Knebel rebounding from Devin Mesoraco's leadoff homer in the ninth to log his fourth save.
The Brewers have a three-game lead on second-place St. Louis entering a three-game series between those National League Central rivals beginning Monday afternoon at Miller Park.
"This isn't a fluke," said Shaw, who has reached safely in 13 straight games with a .418 on-base percentage. "I think we have some staying power this year. I'm excited to see what happens over the summer. There's still a long way to go, but I think we're all pleased with where we are right now."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Catching a break: It was a little thing, but Aguilar admitted the Brewers caught a break when home-plate umpire Rob Drake called ball 4 on Gsellman's 3-1 fastball to Aguilar in the decisive seventh. The Brewers capitalized, starting with Shaw's run-scoring single off Blevins and following with Santana's go-ahead double off the end of his bat against Sewald.
"For me, it was a strike," Aguilar said. "I was kind of surprised. It was a little bit down, but still a good pitch. But he called it a ball. I'll take it. When I was hitting, I was trying to bring up Travis with somebody on base. Then Santana, all the guys tried to make good things [happen]."
"That's definitely a big pitch," said Gsellman. "I needed that, but he didn't give it to me. I let it be known."
Knebel closes it: Counsell believes his bullpen is best with Knebel pitching in the traditional closer's role, which is why the Brewers abandoned their committee approach when Knebel returned from a month-long absence for a hamstring injury. But Knebel, who suffered a blown save in Friday's extra-innings Brewers win, was shaky for the second straight appearance on Sunday. Mesoraco hit his second pitch for a solo home run to straightaway center field, and two batters later, Knebel walked Amed Rosario with one out to put the tying runner on base. But he recovered to strike out Cabrera and Michael Conforto to end the game.
"That was important for Corey, for sure," said Counsell. "He needed that. He had a little adversity with the walk and the home run, but he came back and got two really good, really tough hitters that he made good pitches to."
Jeffress' numbers are like something out of a video game, starting with his 0.32 ERA and .085 opponents' average after 28 innings. Sunday marked his 23rd consecutive appearance without being charged a run, matching a single-season franchise record shared by Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford (both in 2013) and Doug Jones (1997).
What has keyed Jeffress' success this season?
"Have fun," he said. "I love smiling. I love having fun. That's the best thing. When I wake up in the morning, I know I'm coming to the park and having fun."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Chacin needed every out he could get in the Mets' 10-batter second inning, and shortstop Eric Sogard provided a big one when he scaled the tarp to catch Wilmer Flores' foul popup for the second out of the inning with the bases loaded. Jay Bruce promptly ended the threat with a flyout to the warning track in left-center field.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Chacin was solid after that long second inning, with one exception. He grooved a 1-2 fastball to Conforto in the fifth inning and Conforto hit it to dead center field for what initially was ruled a tie-breaking home run. The umpires reviewed the play, however, and determined the baseball had hit the yellow line atop the wall and bounced back into play. Conforto eventually scored anyway, giving the Mets a 5-4 lead.
The Cardinals took two of three from the Brewers at Miller Park in April before the Brewers took two of three from the Cardinals in St. Louis. Milwaukee will try to reclaim home-field advantage when the rivals meet again for a three-game series that begins with an afternoon affair on Memorial Day. Left-hander Brent Suter starts opposite Cardinals right-hander Luke Weaver at 1:10 p.m. CT on Monday.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.